A mix of cropping reaps a rich harvest
Sitting on his charpoy, Balu Singh Chauhan looks on as the last rays of the evening sun drench his onion crop. In his 50 years of life in Piplia village, he has never felt so desperate and destructive. Soon his red tractor will till the soil, cruelly crushing the onion plants and bulbs under its black wheels. The soil will be prepared for the next season of crop.
This is the second year that Balu is letting go of his onion harvest. Harvesting it will mean incurring further losses as he has to pay for labour and transportation to the nearest mandi. This will be followed by some days’ waiting and then haggling with the traders on the price — all these just to cover part of the input cost.
“The selling price of onion had even dropped to Rs.1 per kg. Can anyone survive on such a model? It is an utter waste of time,” he says, making no effort to hide his disillusionment.
It was Dharmendra Singh Chauhan who took the help of Grasim’s CSR team to persuade his father to mix traditional cropping with horticulture plants. Two years of losses and price fluctuations made Balu make the shift. He agreed to offer three bighas for lemon and two bighas for orange plants.
“It was a big change for me. To migrate to horticulture requires awareness. Grasim organised field trips to other farms, which gave us an idea. They also introduced us to Jain irrigation and we set up the drip irrigation system three years back,” Balu says.
Balu recalls the good old days when his grandfather and father were sowing soyabean, onion, chana and wheat without fail. The input cost was manageable while the crop prices were comfortable. However, the recent drop in prices is forcing many farmers in the region to switch to horticulture.
In Piplia village, Grasim has helped farmers to mix traditional cropping with horticulture plants like lemon and orange. There are 3,000 lemon trees planted in the village and three families have drip irrigation set-up for watering them.
Deciding to break away from traditional farming practices, Dharmendra first got 110 lemon saplings. “Every year during the harvest season, we used to worry about the prices. It is then that I decided to cultivate lemon and orange,” he says while pouring tea from an old, grey thermos into small plastic cups.
Dharmendra has now planted 300 lemon trees and 200 orange plants while cousin Lokendra Singh Chauhan got the help of Grasim for 250 lemon saplings. Grasim also helped Dharmendra with a 50 per cent subsidy to procure a drip irrigation system and is now working with him to see if he can construct a concrete vermicompost pit, for which the company will pay Rs.4,000.
The lemon plants are watered by drip irrigation, which helps maintain the right moisture in the soil. “The past three years these lemon trees saved us. If we depend just on traditional crops, it will be difficult for us to stay alive,” Balu says.
The drip irrigation system was bought with the support of Grasim. “Since we have water with the Chambal river in our backyard, the drip system works well for horticulture crops,” he explains.
Sitting on the grass beside his field, Dharmendra admits that it is time that the farmers reviewed their cropping patterns. “It’s as if the world is conspiring against us. The rain is fickle, and the costs of seeds and fertilisers are up. But when it comes to selling, the prices are always low,” he rues.
A soothing evening breeze lets the chill of winter in. Dharmendra looks at his father and then at the stretch of land in front. “We have to adopt new technologies in order to survive as successful farmers. I wish my father will allow me to expand the acreage under horticulture.”
Dr. Pragnya RamGroup Executive President, Corporate Communications & CSRAditya Birla Management Corporation Private LimitedAditya Birla Centre, 1st Floor, 'C' WingS.K. Ahire Marg, WorliMumbai 400 030.
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